Things on the Internet

When your refrigerator needs your WiFi password

“The Internet of Things” has become such a major buzzword phrase this year that it seems like everyone is eager to say that they’re getting into this field. What started as novelty hacks that allowed you to trigger a device to water your plants at home through a mobile app has expanded into the increasing need for everything to be online. We have smart refrigerators that can determine when you need to buy more food from the grocery and we have fitness trackers that gather a crazy amount of data as you go about your day.

To be fair, this isn’t precisely a new term, strictly speaking. You can trace back how it was popular in tech circles in 1992 and while conceptually the idea has been around since the 80’s or thereabouts. It’s a simple enough idea on its own but it’s only in recent years that we’ve gone from basic theory to applicable reality with the release of devices like smart watches mobile accessories that can even test your blood sugar level.

So far, all these connected devices are pretty passive. The current level of thinking has folks designing appliances and other gadgets that gather data and transmit them for use and analysis later on. What we decided to do with such data becomes the real question, although slowly but surely this is changing as well. We’re moving towards a greater focus on the devices making relevant decisions geared towards making things easier for the user. Thus we have the example of the fridge that can restock itself through online orders or perhaps future health trackers than can alert medical assistance when your blood sugar is detected to be too low or your blood pressure is too high. There’s a lot of potential for the Internet of Things and what more and more data sources can provide. It’s really a question of what we should do with all this information.

However your average consumer isn’t exactly a statistical wizard. Most folks are more likely to say that they don’t enjoy math and it’s not a typical part of your daily life. It’s like when Twitter launched a native analytics dashboard for its users, it was mainly internet geeks and social media marketers who were initially excited about the news. And yet the average Twitter user has probably never even logged into their dashboard once.

The Internet of Things is a really exciting concept and we’re all looking forward to what new technologies and innovative solutions will come from it. But at the same time, we recognize that maybe not everyone is truly ready for the amount of data that exists that can be collected by such devices. The pace of innovation is moving a lot faster than what most of us are capable of handling alongside primary obligation like work or putting food on the table. And so it really falls on us as individual users to get educated in order to make smarter decisions that take advantage of all the data points that our connected devices are gathering for us. After we get through that, then the real fun will happen.

IMAGE CREDIT: wilgengebroed via Flickr through Wikimedia Commons.

on April 6, 2015